Hulu + Live TV saw a 60% spike in subscribers after Charter Spectrum dropped Disney-owned networks on August 31. The day before, Spectrum warned customers that they could lose channels like ESPN, FX, Freeform, Natgeo, Disney Channel and Baby TV as well as multiple local ABC channels. With college football season ramping up, cutting off cable subscribers from ESPN networks was especially notable.
The subscriber surge lines up with the speedy timeline for Comcast to sell its stake in Hulu to Disney, according to Deadline, and Disney’s own marketing of its services for sports-focused viewers. Spectrum drew a line in the sand when the provider told its TV customers that they can get 30% off Fubo so they can watch Disney-owned networks like ESPN for two months. In short, reconciliation between the two companies could be far off.
Disney and Spectrum failed to reach an agreement about programming costs. Spectrum asked Disney, who plans to launch a direct-to-consumer streaming service for ESPN, to let Spectrum sell bundles of its streaming services at discounted prices. The cable provider said the model “creates the pathway for Disney to stabilize its linear losses and grow its DTC business, ultimately preserving cash flows.” Spectrum argues that Disney’s streaming services have sped up the decline of cable TV and in turn, Disney Channel viewership.
“Spectrum is on your side and fighting to keep costs down while protecting and maximizing customer choice,” the company said before talks broke down with Disney. In a follow-up call last Friday, Spectrum said it would be willing abandon Disney if demands aren’t met.
Disney issued its own statement that said Spectrum caused customers stress while they tried to cancel their cable subscriptions and encountered three-hour hold times.
“Disney deeply values its relationship with its viewers and is hopeful Charter is ready to have more conversations that will restore access to its content to Spectrum customers as quickly as possible,” Disney said.